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What do engineers get up to at night?

16th December 2019
Joe Bush

Steve Rogerson looks at some of the news that may have missed the front page. I worry sometimes about engineers. I mean, what do they do in bed at night? A clue came up at November’s IESF Automotive event in Munich, organised by Siemens subsidiary Mentor. Martin O’Brien, Senior Vice President at Siemens, was explaining the importance of digitalisation.

“Digitalisation,” he said. “Just keep it under your pillow at night.” I didn’t have the nerve to ask him what he meant.

Another Vice President at the conference, this one from Arm, was Chet Babla, who was clearly enjoying seeing automotive leading the way in cutting-edge design. “It is nice to see automotive being cool,” he said. “Let’s enjoy it while it happens.”

He has come up with a simple method of describing the five levels of autonomous driving: 1. Everything on; 2. Feet off; 3. Hands off; 4. Eyes off; and 5. Mind off. Much easier than the normal complicated descriptions we see all the time.

I was at a show earlier this year and they had the current McLaren Formula One car on show. I did think about how nice that would be to drive home; I have always been a McLaren fan since the iconic Marlboro McLaren. Now, maybe you can. F1-Pack Rivals is a Formula One app that uses augmented reality to let you park an F1 car in your drive. My latest brush with augmented reality is the Beer Hawk advent calendar that gives you a virtual brewery tour while you sample that day’s beer. Cheers.

McLaren is pushing another technology to its limits in a contract with Mindmaze to collect signals from drivers’ brains as they race. The goal is to look at ways to improve performance but I can see a lot of entertainment value to seeing the emotions of the drivers during some of those nail-biting moments.

Two recent surveys show the difference between Brits and Americans. One by Yahoo found that seven in ten Americans would totally trust a robot to do their domestic chores, but less that four in ten Brits would buy one if they were available now. What was more interesting was that 88% of Brits would like the ability to modify their domestic robot. Modify? Hmm, how? I want to know more.

As for me, I still keep giving unashamed plugs for robotic vacuum cleaners – such as the Whiz from Softbank Robotics – in the hope that someone will one day send me one to review.

And, finally, goodbye. This will be the last Under the Radar column, I won’t say forever because you never know what is around the corner. It has been fun to write and has been running here since February 2016, so nearly four years, and before that for many years in a different guise in another magazine.

Image: Being a science-fiction fan, I did like this picture from Panasonic. The futuristic factory look was there to promote the company’s participation at the recent Productronica and Semicon events in Munich, which sadly I could not make. Unsurprisingly, it was pushing the latest smart factory trends. I once worked in a stupid factory, but that’s another story.

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